China on Monday said all sides involved in the Ukraine issue should remain calm after Russian President Vladimir Putin put his country’s nuclear deterrent on high alert, but reiterated its opposition to the use of what it calls illegal and unilateral sanctions following the move by western countries to block some Russians banks from the SWIFT international payments system.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said all sides should remain calm and avoid further escalation when asked to comment on Putin’s decision to put Russia’s nuclear mechanism on alert.
Putin defended his decision by saying it was due to the aggressive statements by Nato leaders and economic sanctions against Moscow.
Wang reiterated China’s view that all countries’ legitimate security concerns should be taken seriously.
Brushing off a call from the White House on Sunday for China to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wang said China always stands on the side of peace and justice and decides its position on the merits of the situation.
Beijing has so far refused to condemn Putin’s actions in Ukraine or call it an “invasion”.
On western economic sanctions against Russia, Wang said the sanctions were being implemented unilaterally.
“We are against using sanctions to resolve problems, even more so against unilateral sanctions without an international mandate. China and Russia will continue regular trade cooperation based on the spirit of mutual respect and equality, equality and mutual benefit,” Wang said.
The US and its allies moved over the weekend to exclude Russia from the SWIFT interbank communication system; the SWIFT, or the “Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication,” is a secure messaging system that facilitates cross-border payments.
The Chinese foreign ministry has said earlier that in the future, China will continue to make its own efforts to promote a political settlement of the Ukraine issue, and China’s approach is in sharp contrast to some countries’ approach that aims to create a crisis and benefit from the crisis.
The reason why China believes Russia does have “legitimate security concerns” is that “we have seen how Nato acted to pressure Russia and destroyed the former Yugoslavia in the past. If there hadn’t been these concrete security pressures and Nato military deployments around Russian territory, Moscow would not have needed to carry out such risky military operations to respond to NATO’s threat,” Yang Jin, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the state-run tabloid, Global Times.
China is Russia’s biggest trading partner, and Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have grown increasingly close over the years.
Putin was in Beijing earlier this month to attend the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympics and signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership aimed at countering US influence, saying the two countries would have “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation”.